We are a culture of unremembering and this process is our colonial legacy and so in turn the decolonizing will begin there, in the archives, sifting through letters of the American West Indies Ladies Society. Touching and reading the handwritten notes by an elderly woman in St. Thomas thanking them for sending her financial support, letters from various Virgin Islands groups inviting one another to dances and public debates, letters asking for solidarity to protest lynching, to fight for the rights of porters and domestics. There are nuances in the correspondence between these organizations. You can see that there are conflicts in the ways that one organization asks the other to please be in attendance in the event as to not embarrass them, or that the women's organization tends to very gendered roles in organization, bringing food, selling tickets, etc...However, what my first deep dive into the archives around Virgin Islanders in the Harlem Renaissance left me most with was the feeling of how they claimed public space as a space to debate ideas, signify meaning and presence. It is from this first encounter that I came up with the title for an exhibition, "When the jungle creeps up unto the skyscrapers". This is commentary by a journalist describing one of the parades in Harlem. It comes from a very racialized imaginary of course. But it's also signaling a claiming of space through sound and movement that I find fascinating and look forward to explore more during the rest of my fellowship.
To read more about my project: Neither Subject Nor Citizen, my artistic research project at the Social Justice Institute at the Barnard Center for Research on Women see here.